Commission acts to simplify access to European Structural and Investment Funds


The Europen Commission has announced its intention to create a High Level Group on simplification. It aims to reduce the administrative burden for beneficiaries to access the five European Structural and Investment Funds– the European Regional Development Fund, the European Social Fund, the Cohesion Fund, the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development and the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund.

The group is to independently assess and monitor the uptake of simplification opportunities to access and use European Structural and Investment Funds by the Member States, thus contributing to the Commission’s efforts for Better Regulation.

Former Commission Vice President Siim Kallas will chair this group which is planned to run for three years. The members of the group should include the best available experts in the field. Special focus is to be put on five priorities:

1. Facilitating access to funding for SMEs

2. Tackling the “Goldplating” practice, where extra requirements or administrative hurdles are addedat national or regional level, including in the process of selecting projects.

3. Using simpler ways to reimburse costs.

4. Increasing the use of online procedures, such as “e-cohesion” in Cohesion Policy funded projects

5. Analysing how projects initiated and managed by local communities are implemented (community-led local development)

The new regulations offer a broad range of opportunities for simplification and reduced administrative burden. These include a set of common rules for all European Structural and investment Funds.

This High Level Group on simplification is part of a broader initiative to improve how Member States and regions invest and manage EU Cohesion Policy funds, set by Commissioner Corina Creţu and the Directorate-General for Regional and Urban Policy.


Synergies Between Horizon 2020 and ESIF for Key Enabling Technologies now Available Online


The presentations and video are now available online from a recent event on synergies between the Key Enabling Technologies in Horizon 2020 and European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF).

The event was organised by the European Commission and the Committee of the Regions and held in Brussels on 6 May 2015.

Speakers from the Directorate General for Research and Innovation (DG RTD) and the Committee of the Regions began the event. The speakers highlighted that two thirds of the EU regions have included Key Enabling Technologies (KETs) as part of their Research and Innovation Smart Specialisation Strategies (RIS3).
The presentations included the results from a recent study on “Analysis of Smart Specialisation Strategies in Nanotechnologies, Advanced Manufacturing and Process Technologies”, the report from which is given at the link below.

Speakers from DG RTD noted that whilst there are no particular actions on Smart Specialisation Strategies in Horizon 2020, Horizon 2020 can be used to accelerate the changes set out in the strategies. For example, the Teaming and Twinning calls both link to Smart Specialisation Strategies. They also highlighted that there are 20 topics where synergies can be found with ESIF in the Leadership in Emerging and Industrial Technologies part of the Horizon 2020 Work Programme, which is where the Key Enabling Technologies feature most prominently.

Smart specialisation… Quid est?


Smart specialisation is an innovation policy concept designed to identify the unique economic characteristics and assets of an area (usually a region, or a country) to address emerging opportunities and market developments in a coherent manner….Basically? It means developing and matching the research and innovation strengths of a geographical area to the business needs Rather than being a strategy imposed from above, smart special­isation involves businesses, research centres and universities working together.

EU Legislation:

Smart specialisation is not new, it is in the continuity of the previous funding period (2007-2013). What is new is that the European Commission makes such strategies a pre-condition for ERDF funding. It will be the basis for European Structural and Investment Fund (ESIF) interventions in R&I, as part of the Cohesion Policy’s contribution to the Europe 2020 jobs and growth agenda (see Regulation (EU) 1301/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 December 2013).

In England:

A Smart Specialisation Strategie (S3) has been developed at a national level, but has to be informed locally by the LEP ESIF strategies which need to focus on specific actions in support of innovation. The Government also asked LEPs to consider the development of a specific strategy of Smart Specialisation and particularly encouraged the use the Joint Research Centre’s (JRC) RIS3 guide, available on the Smart Specialisation Platform:

Latest news:

on 12 February, speaking at a conference in Riga (Latvia), Charlina Vitcheva, Director of smart and sustainable growth at the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Regional Policy, said that 59 of the 110 plans failed to meet monitoring and evaluation criteria, and lacked a “real vision for transformation”. Most Regions must prepare for failure as well as success, to allow them to take more risks in drafting their plans, and to simply avoid old and repackaged innovation strategies. See more at:

We recommend:

The role of Universities and Research Organisations as drivers for Smart Specialisation at regional level:

11.8 billion Euros for 2014-2020: the European Commission has formally adopted the UK partnership agreement on the 29th October.


The European Commission (EC) has adopted Partnership Agreements with six Member States on the 29th October, including the United Kingdom. The UK Partnership agreement allocates €11.8 billion of European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) for key thematic investments during the period 2014-2020. The UK government is now waiting for a formal response from the European Commission to its Operational Programmes.

The European Structural and Investment Funds (ESIF) covers the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the European Social Fund (ESF), the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF), and the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development (EAFRD). The funds are concentrated on a limited number of priorities for a better impact on growth and jobs in the UK: research and innovation, ICT, competitiveness of enterprises and low carbon economy represent more than 80% of the total allocations.

Both the European Commission and the United Kingdom are expecting to increase the number of innovative enterprises, including the number of collaborations between SMEs and academic institutions in the UK. Superfast broadband, low carbon economy, sustainable land management, inactivity levels, higher level training and skills are also within the main targets of the UK Partnership Agreement.

Within the ESI Funds Growth Programme, England is being allocated €3.6 billion of European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), €3.3 billion of European Social Fund (ESF), and €3.4 billion for Rural Development.

The ERDF and ESF Operational Programmes, which are breaking down the investment priorities and objectives of the Partnership Agreements into concrete actions, are due to be adopted by the European Commission in the next few months. Applications will then be able to be submitted to the relevant Managing Authorities of the programmes for applying to these funds.

To find out more: